Saturday, April 3, 2010

04, 08, 18, 21, 24 and 369


scene of a gang fight - picture from national archive of s'pore



do these numbers make any sense to you? no, they cannot be toto numbers because the last one has 3 digits. there might have been other numbers but these were the ones i can recall. if you grew up during the 50s and 60s, you would have known someone who secretly or openly declared that he belonged to one of these numbered gangs. among my schoolmates and kampong kids were some who claimed allegiance to one of these secret societies.

each gang had its own so-called trade-marks. hand gestures and tattoos were two clear ways of identification. i was told that those who belonged to the 24 gang had two birds, i think they were either swallows or swifts, tattooed on one of their shoulders. i have heard of the butterfly gang - a woman gang in which members had the tattoo of a butterfly on their body.

gangland clashes were common in the 50s and 60s, even right up to the 70s. in the late 50s or early 60s, during the school holidays, i used to stay over with some relatives at dunlop street, a hotbed of gangland activities. a number of times, in the middle of the night, the silence would be broken by the sounds of bottles being smashed, shouting and heavy running footsteps. i was told not to venture out. these clashes, in which parangs, iron pipes and broken bottles were used, usually ended as quickly as they had started.

secret society members seemed to have scant respect for the living as well as the dead. in those dark days, fights at funerals and wakes were not uncommon.

my former neighbour in the kampong, who attended the same primary school as i, started young. at primary 3, he was already relieving me of my pocket money - ten cents each day. this went on for sometime and i cannot remember how and when it finally ended. extortion was one of the ways the gangsters derived some form of income. the other was collecting protection money from shops, hawkers, food stalls, bars and gambling dens.

this particular neighbour of mine ended up as a big-time gangster. i learnt that he was involved in a murder for which he was detained 'at the president's pleasure'.

some gangsters 'retired' after they had set up their own families but they continued to work in the background. they could still be called upon to help negotiate at 'settlement talks' but they would try to keep their hands clean by not getting involved in fights or clashes that might arise out of any failed talk.

not all gangsters were pimps or people who engaged in shady or underground activities. some held respectable jobs. these people would keep a low profile but their trade-mark - the tattoo - that they wore on their bodies might be a giveaway of their past connections.

16 comments:

Lam Chun See said...

Yes in those days, gangsterism among school boys was quite common. Good thing by the time I went to sec sch the problem was much less. My brother Chun Chew who is about your age blogged about gangsters in his school (Bartley) here. From the experience of his friend and yours, it's clear that gangsterism is one path that does not lead to a good ending.

unk Dicko said...

The SS were still prevalent even till today. At my last school before I retired,I checkmated almost all the SS activities within my school and in the vicinity upto a radius of 4-5 km. I can't divulge in detail publicly how I manage to do this but it was a special relationship with the CID SSB and some other local police agencies who knew and recognise the long experience I had in dealing with so called "real" gangsters and others who pretended to be as bad( as found in most schools)...that really clipped their wings.
The news of the success of what I did soon spread to other schools who asked for advice in tackling this sinister evil of teen school gangs, of outright bullying, extortion, defiance against teachers and the Law etc..
Btw, even after I had retired, my direct advice and help have been sought on the quiet by teachers, HODs,Ps and VPs,CID officers, and former students some who were still having problems with the SS.
What advice I gave them and the follow-up action I took ENDED the problem just like that. No further problems arose in such cases.

nah said...

In the 50s and 60s, these numbered gangs operated in different areas, and these gangs were engaged in protection rackets, prostitution and extortion in their respective territories. As some areas were controlled by different gangs, violent clashes often broke out between the groups. As a kid, I had witnessed numerous gangland clashes in my area. Each time a clash broke out, we had to quickly shut the front of our shop by pulling the collapsible gates. The coffee shop next door was not so lucky. Their shop did not have collapsible gates. Theirs consisted of portable wooden panels and by the time the owner fixed these wooden panels to close his shop, these gangsters had already carted away crates of empty soft drink bottles from its premises to be used for the fight.

yg said...

chun see, gangsters were found in every school. even premier schools like acs and ri were not spared. however, in such schools, the number was insignificant.

yg said...

dick, you are more effective than that cid chap who went around secondary schools to talk to the students to stay away from gangs!

yg said...

nah, your father's chinese wine shop could have provided a lot of ammunition for the fighters.

unk Dicko said...

YG,
You are absolutely correct about RI, ACS and other top schools also being infected by this scourge of Secret Society activities.
While I was at HCJC,a student witnessed a most unbelievable scene behind the close doors of the Student Council Room ( locked from within and it was very late after normal JC hours). A 1st year student(from ACS)was being physically assaulted with an umbrella while he was kneeling down surrounded by his opposing gang members from CHS. But the one leading the assault was from RI...he was the highest ranked leader of a bona fide branch of an SS gang which operated near the Beauty World area. He held power and authority esp in HCJC...or so he thought!
The whistle-blower quickly went to inform some academic staff still in the staff room. One of them fortunately remembered I had dealt with SS characters before and they came to my PE office to seek my help.
What I did and how I clipped the wings of all those involved esp the JC 2 SS leader ( ex-RI and a top student!) which prevented a public scandal from publicity-hungry media & newspapers, well that is SOLID STUFF fit for a major blogpost. Much too long to relate here. And as this is NOT fiction and as those involved had, I believed, taken my strict and kind advice seriously to mend their ways including the leader,I shall never mention their names. One is very high up in his profession now.
The victim was also in a gang together with others from ACS!
The victim's parents spoke with me that very night and I informed the P who called for a full EXE Mtg the next morning to deal with this potential Blow Up.
After much discusssion, and toing and froing...they all came to accept my offer. Give me 2 weeks and I will investigate thoroughly and leave the SS portion to yours sincerly. I took action, after discussing with my bosses.
What action did I take?
Not the usual report to police stuff. None of that.
The action I took, in short, saved the education career of all those involved so that today all of them are v successful and yet ENDED their "garang" SS adventure.
I might consider describing the v successful, quiet"action" I took which ended the SS foothold in the JC and possibly in RI and ACS, those days.

Icemoon said...

Why was 369 labelled 369? When my army encik mentioned sar-luk-gao, I thought he was referring to gangsters from all the combined arms division - 3, 6 and 9. So why the name?

Thimbuktu said...

This is the self-proclaimed "Street Urchin of Bukit Ho Swee" once young, but not a hero-worship of parang-welding, gang crash or addicted to gambling and the 3Vs - vulgarism, vandalism and violence in the kampung. Urchin of spider-fighting, fish-fighting and kite (layang-layang) fighting though.

yg said...

icemoon. maybe dick yip can provide the answer to your question.

kimology said...

I used to stay on a main street opposite a mamak stall and a Chinese coffee shop where all these people will gather. What amazes me is the speed of the fights; just like you said, they are over as soon as they started and all is left is broken bottles and dented rubbish bins. Nothing like in the movies at all. We had a good view of things as we are on the first floor. And also, as you said, always in the middle of the night.

unk Dicko said...

YG and Icemoon,
The history of the Traids which started in China after the fall of the Ming Dynasty and which later spread to all parts of the world including S'pore...makes for a fascinating study ( but not from the internet..as much of the info are still kept under wraps ). One would need to have avenues to other sources to delve further. I do have.
The 369 started as an off shoot branch of the 18 lorhans in the early 60's.
WHY the numerals 3,6, and 9 ?

3+6+9 = 18

This is to show their early connections and affiliations to the mother tribe. The 18 SS gang is also a branch off from an even older and powerful triad gang.
The 369 is one of the most violent and dangerous SS in SG. In the early days of their formation, they recruited mainly from within the prisons and ex-jailbirds. They became very successful and eventually declared their total independence from SS 18, the mother tribe.
One reason could be because the other traditional SS were mainly Chinese. But 369 started to recruit from non-Chinese...Malays and Indians.
They used various ploys to attract members ( I knew most of their entrapment methods as I was very active in anti-SS activity ).
The 369 SS has been decimated in recent years owing to their own violent nature and the relentless crackdown of their headmen, many of them now detained under Section 55.
The 369 even attacked the source they came from ..the 18 Lorhans /brothers...on sight!
Did you know One-eyed Dragon who shot dead the nightclub owner at Serangoon Flat was also due to SS rivalry?
Killer was 369, victim was an 18 member.
Dragon held the rank of official "hitmen" in 369. There are numbers and symbols that indicate the rank structure...which is too detailed to post here.

hann said...

Uncle Dicko, is there anyway to contact you ?

Rds,
Hann

Unk Dicko said...

Hello Hann,
Yes you can contact me on my Facebook page. Look for DICK YIP..my pic is there, same as on my Owl blogsite.

If you have no FB account, let me know.

Unk Dicko

Anonymous said...

Gang's are still prevalent in secondary schools today. I am in ACS now and 24 of my friends have gang affiliations. In fact, I was also suspected of being in a gang. The discipline masters are trying very hard to purge the school of such influences and even sent 8 of my friends to ssb for interrogation. I was sent to cnb because of suspected drugs. I try really hard not to hang out with them but theyre all my friends and got so many.

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Anonymous., thanks for sharing and updating us here.
You mentioned ACS...is it Barker Rd or ACSI ?
If you or your friends still involved in S S need real HELP to get out of SS..and cannot find any, let me know here.

Unk D